The Good Life of a New-Media Guru
Is Jeff Jarvis gloating too much about the death of print?
Take a look at this, from Jeff Jarvis' blog BuzzMachine:
November 5th, 2008
I'm in the Emirates lounge getting ready to fly to Dubai for a World Economic Forum (Davos) meeting of the Global Agenda Councils. I'm on the one devoted to the future of the internet, which is humbling. (Full disclosure: The travel expenses are paid by the airline and the government of Dubai.) I'll report from there as wifi allows.
Jeff Jarvis is living the good life. (But he's still humble—he says so himself!) Jeff Jarvis is the very model of a modern new-media guru. Do you know about him? He started out in print media but is now a multiplatform new-media consultant. If you work in media, you probably know his work. If you consume media, you probably should. He's one of the leading Web futurists, one of the few new-media consultant types who came over from old media. (He was founding editor of Entertainment Weekly.)
After leaving EW in 1990, Jarvis worked as an editor at the New York Daily News and a critic for TV Guide. Then he took to blogging and—eventually—blogging about blogging, and now he can often be found consulting about new media and giving media-futurist speeches to international forums and self-proclaimed new-media "summits." Recently he has even begun to host international forums and self-proclaimed new-media summits, when not directing J-school programs focused on new media (at the City University of New York) or raking in consulting fees from old-media giants like the New York Times and Advance Publications, the parent company of Condé Nast.
Jeff Jarvis seems to be seeking to be your Marshall McLuhan, and he's convinced a lot of media corporations to pay him consulting fees to tell them what is happening with these new intertubes—and what should happen.
I used to like Jeff Jarvis: I've never met him, but I felt I knew him from his blog, which I've read fairly regularly since he began blogging eloquently about 9/11. I've often enjoyed his opinions and, especially, his crankiness. I loved what he did to Dell when the company failed to fix his computer: He called it "Dell-Hell" and used his blog to mobilize the Dell-discontented multitudes to make the company pay attention to their "service" pledges. (He must have had flawless service in the Emirates lounge.)
What I liked about his blog was that it was personal and immediate. He's a natural at the form, with an ability to entwine his life and those of the rest of us in his musings. Here is a guy who literally took 9/11 to heart: He was on a PATH train near Ground Zero that morning and developed atrial fibrillation in the aftermath, a problem that still afflicts him. * He has been outspoken on the issue of anti-Semitism. And I never had a problem with his championing the idea of taking bloggers seriously and using the Web to find a new way of making journalism viable in the 21st century. He was right about the potential of the Net when I was still being a Luddite about it. (After all, I'm a blogger, too, these days.)
But something has changed in the last year or two: He's now visibly running for New Media Pontificator in Chief. He began treating his own thoughts as profound and epigrammatic, PowerPoint-paradoxical, new-media-mystical. He acquired the habit of proclaiming "Jarvis' Laws" of new media, acting like a prophet, a John the Baptist if not the messiah. (Although he knows who the messiah is. He's about to publish a book of Google worship—What Would Google Do?—that makes that clear.)
Meanwhile, he's become increasingly heartless about the reporters, writers, and other "content providers" who have been put out on the street by the changes in the industry. Not only does he blame the victims, he denies them the right to consider themselves victims. They deserve their miserable fate—and if they don't know it, he'll tell them why at great length. Sometimes it sounds as if he's virtually dancing on their graves.
Consider Jarvis' response to an essay by Paul Farhi that suggested the current crisis in journalism might not be entirely the fault of journalists. Jarvis parried with a cruel, disdainful rant contending that writers and reporters deserve their fate:
Ron Rosenbaum is the author of The Shakespeare Wars and Explaining Hitler. His latest book is How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III.